PHOENIX — A first-term state lawmaker wants an immediate special session he said is necessary to protect Arizonans from identity theft related to Obamacare.
Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, said enrollment in the Affordable Care Act, which is beginning today, is being eased along by health care “navigators.” These are individuals and organizations trained to help consumers, small businesses and their employees as they decide the best options for coverage.
But Boyer said that neither the federal government nor Arizona has any requirement to ensure that these helpers do not use their access to personal information to turn around and commit identity theft. So in a letter Monday he asked Gov. Jan Brewer to clear the way to require that those who are navigators at least pass a criminal background check.
Boyer told Capitol Media Services that, ideally, he wants the governor to bring lawmakers back to the Capitol immediately to remedy the problem. He conceded, though, that is unlikely to happen.
So he is working on a backup plan to have his legislation considered on an emergency basis when the Legislature reconvenes in January. And Boyer wants it made retroactive so that those who already are functioning as navigators must immediately get registered.
Boyer said what he is seeking is not unusual. He said the National Conference of State Legislatures has found that 23 states already have mandated background checks.
“The last thing we want is for any Arizonan to have their identity stolen,” he wrote to Brewer.
Gubernatorial press aide Andrew Wilder said his boss is willing to consider the issue in January.
Boyer said this isn’t about regulating people who simply provide forms or links to web sites to those who ask.
“They’re going to have Social Security numbers,” he said. “They’ll even have in some cases bank information because they have to have the financial information.”
His proposal would require navigators to register with the state Department of Insurance. More to the point, they would have to go through a criminal background check, including being fingerprinted.
Boyer envisions legislation that would automatically disqualify anyone with a felony conviction.
“Would you want somebody with a felony record to handle your sensitive information?” he asked. “I think most people would say, ‘absolutely not.’”
Less clear is whether misdemeanor convictions would disqualify someone.
“I need to think about that,” Boyer said.
There is precedent in Arizona for what he wants. A license to sell insurance requires a background check. And a felony conviction is sufficient grounds to deny permission.
Boyer actually tried to tack a licensing and background check requirement onto legislation pushed through the House late in the session to have Arizona take advantage of the Affordable Care Act. That highly contentious vote expands eligibility for the state’s Medicaid program to the equivalent of 138 percent of the federal poverty level, up from 100 percent.
But a coalition of Democrats and some Republicans, working with Brewer, had agreed on a final version of the plan before the House vote. And amendments offered by Republicans opposed to the legislation, many of which would have undermined the deal, all were defeated.